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County opposes governor’s push for more state control in siting renewable energy projects

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature has gone on the record opposing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s push for more state control in siting large-scale wind, solar and other renewable energy projects.

The governor on Feb. 21 proposed Article 23 as a budget amendment to speed up the review process for renewable energy projects that are larger that 25 megawatts.

The amendment gives the state more authority in siting projects which can currently take years to get through local and state approvals, often with stiff opposition from the local communities.

Cuomo wants to ensure that complete applications are acted upon within one year, except in the case of certain former commercial and industrial sites, which will be reviewed within six months.

Cuomo proposed creating a new Office of Renewable Energy Permitting to improve and streamline the process for siting of large-scale renewable energy projects. The governor said the projects deliver significant benefits to local communities.

“The governor needs to respect home rule,” said Lynne Johnson, County Legislature chairwoman.

The county acted on the resolution at the request of the towns of Yates and Barre, which are both facing large-scale wind turbine projects. Barre also has a proposed 200 meagwatt solar project that includes part of Shelby.

“Home rule should stay at the town level where the government is closest to the people,” said Legislator Don Allport.

Legislators in the resolution approved on Wednesday said removing local home-rule rights could potentially harm local economies and environments.

They faulted Cuomo for introducing Article 23 as a budget amendment after budget hearings were completed, giving state legislators insufficient time to examine the proposal and identify its negative consequences.

County legislators also said Article 23 goes too far “essentially gutting” the current Article 10 process. County legislators say local concerns would be stifled, and local governments will be less likely to receive fair property tax revenues.

The resolution from the county will be forwarded to local state legislators and Gov. Cuomo.